The consequences of 'extreme energy'
Proponents of fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, and deep-offshore production all say that these are just other forms of 'oil' and 'clean-burning natural gas,' without explaining that these forms of 'extreme energy' have significantly worse impacts on the environment, Michael Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, says in an interview with OilPrice.com.
(Page 2 of 2)
James Stafford: What is the number one energy topic that grabs your readers, and how does your coverage of it go beyond the depths (or shallows) of the mainstream media?Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Michael Klare: Right now the number one topic is how the "Shale gas (and oil) revolution" will alter the power balance between the United States and its major rivals, especially Russia and China. I heard this in Russia, China, and Mexico during visits to universities and think-tanks to these countries last year - it was always the #1 question. They want to know if other countries can replicate the US success in this field, or will be forever dependent on American fracking technology. People also want to know how this "revolution" will affect the future of renewables. Will more gas production prove a "bridge" to renewables, or a "bridge to nowhere?"
James Stafford: In your view, how is the mainstream media being manipulated in the climate change debate? How is the public being cheated out of a rational, smart debate?
Michael Klare: I am concerned that the media is not adequately explaining the difference between conventional and unconventional oil and gas. Proponents of fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, deep-offshore production, and so on all say that these are just other forms of "oil" and "clean-burning natural gas," without explaining that vastly different production techniques are involved and that these techniques have significantly worse impacts on the environment.
James Stafford: Will we ever get to the real debate, or will interest groups continue to maintain control?
Michael Klare: We can have a fair debate in universities and think-tanks, but the American media are saturated with advertising paid for by the oil and gas industry that distorts the environmental consequences of relying on these fuels - and it's very hard for ordinary people to challenge these accounts. (Related article: Will Saudi Arabia Allow the U.S. Oil Boom? Interview with Chris Faulkner)
James Stafford: Recently you have expressed your disappointment over the climate change rallies, focusing on the Keystone XL pipeline. What's gone wrong? Has the movement lost its momentum?
Michael Klare: Perhaps I've expressed some disappointment from time to time but I've been very impressed by the emergence of a new movement on college campuses--including my own--to get colleges and universities to eliminate their investments in big carbon corporations, as a way of persuading them to keep unproduced carbon in the ground.
James Stafford: Do we need the Keystone XL pipeline?
Michael Klare: We Americans do not need Keystone XL - there are plenty of other available sources of energy, and we can reduce our demand through conservation efforts. But the tar sands industry desperately needs KXL, as all other practical conduits for exporting increased tar sands production seem to be closed off (like the Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia) - meaning they'll have lots of resources, but no export options. No wonder they're desperate to get Obama to approve the pipeline!
James Stafford: What should we know about Keystone XL that the mainstream media doesn't tell us, or doesn't understand?
Michael Klare: The fact that KXL will not carry "oil" at all--despite their claims--but a heavily polluting mixture of bitumen, diluents, and toxic chemicals that must be processed through extraordinary means before it can be refined into anything resembling a usable fuel.
James Stafford: How do you address the renewable energy-vs-fossil fuels race?
Michael Klare: My argument is that the production of oil and gas is not a static phenomenon but is undergoing profound changes, involving greater risk to the environment and greater risk of conflict over disputed sources of supply (such as offshore and Arctic reserves). These risks are bound to multiply as all sources of "easy" oil disappear and we become increasingly reliant on hard-to-reach, hard-to-process "extreme" energy. Only through the accelerated development of renewables can we avoid an inevitable spiral of war and disaster.
James Stafford: Is there a point at which we will be able to say that the two can help each other?
Michael Klare: Some investments in biofuels may have this capacity, but otherwise I do not see how.
James Stafford: There has been a lot of transparency activity in the US and Europe this year aimed at punishing big oil and its bankers for manipulating energy prices, for which the end consumer eventually foots the bill. Energy price manipulation is a time-honored tradition and usually the giants get a slap on the wrist and a fine that wouldn't even make them blink. Are times changing, though? Will things be different now?
Michael Klare: Well, we can always hope so. But with Chinese, Indian, and Russian state-owned companies playing an ever-increasing role in the extraction of fossil fuels, I'm not optimistic about this!
James Stafford: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Michael.
For those of you interested in seeing more of Michael’s work please visit his authors page over at TomDispatch
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best energy bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.